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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Earning a Membership

The Fort Thomas Swim Club finished another successful season of aquatic greatness. For years, the Club has provided a get-a-away from the summer heat and gaining membership to the Club is a big deal for Fort Thomas residents.

As you probably know, you must get on the official waiting list to earn your membership. The average wait time from getting your name on the list to actually becoming a member is between eight and ten years.

People that I have spoken to have noticed that on any certain day the pool is less than crowded. With a waiting list of hundreds of families, the question presented itself, "Why not grant more people membership to the pool?" By letting more members in, the Club will collect more revenue ($185 for the first person, plus $30 for each additional family member). This approach also opens up spots on the waiting list.

Of course, this idea has two perspectives:

  1. Existing members do not want the Club to become over-crowded. They prefer that the usual numbers of people be given memberships.  
  2. On the other hand, people on the waiting list would love for more families to be granted memberships so they get closer to accessing the pool.
To become a member, you will pay the following fees: 

  • Certificate fee - $1000 ($750 is refunded when you terminate your membership)
  • Initiation Fee - $100 (However, $25 was paid when you were added to the waiting list)
  • Dues - $185 for the first person, plus $30 for each additional family member (i.e., a family of four would cost $275 annually)
This means a family of four would pay a total of $1,350 the first year and $275 each year after. 
As a person on the wait list, you must be prepared to accept membership (and all fees) at the time it is offered or else they will have to go to the next person and you will forfeit your place. This information is from the Fort Thomas Swim Club website.
We will have to wait until next year to see how many people are accepted off the waiting list. In the interim, we can have a healthy discussion. 

How do you feel with the Fort Thomas Swim Club wait list? Do you feel that the Club could afford (spatially) to grant more families memberships? Do you think that if the waiting list works, it should not be altered? 

There is one thing that cannot be denied. The Fort Thomas Swim Club is an outstanding organization in the City. Every year, they provide a summer oasis that everyone wants. The waiting list is proof of its popularity. 

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.


  1. I imagine there are a lot of families/members who do not use their membership, but are hanging on to it "just in case". Therefore, I think the Club should do an "audit" of sorts at the end of the season. If a family/member has not visited the Club within a predetermined length of time, (5 years, just as an example), they should get a "warning" that they will forfeit their membership if they do not visit the Club the next year, (they would have the option of getting back on the waiting list at that time). This would free up space for people on the waiting list, keep receivables the same for the Club, and also still accomplish crowd control since there is a grace period before the inactive membership expires...

  2. Although the schools ranked #1, the Fort Thomas Swim Club ranked as one of the desirable attributes of our community that brought me here to raise my children. It ended up being a case of bait and switch. The consolation prize was the YMCA or the Highland Country Club, (both at the opposite end of town, the latter reserved for Aristocrats or aspiring Aristocrats - we have many of each). I had fond memories of riding my bike to my swim club as a kid. Not in Fort Thomas. Not, at least, unless you are one of the Tier II elitists who secured a membership decades ago and have passed it down since then as a birthright. If the club is seldom anywhere near capacity and many are holding memberships for posterity rather than actual use, membership should be opend up for the countless families who keep our community alive by investing in our century-old housing stock. I know several individuals and families involved in the administration of the Swim Club and they are all exceedingly civic minded people. On keeping the club exclusionary, however, it is more than time for a change. My kids will be entering college soon and the romantic notion of them biking to the pool never happened because the myopic inclination to patronize an exclusionary venue has prevailed.

  3. It is true some families keep their membership even after moving away. Of course, I know a couple of those who pay their annual dues and visit 1-2x per summer and do stop in. Plus, it's not been unusual for them to eventually move back and start back up using it in earnest.

  4. The Ft. Thomas Swim Club is a joke. It certainly is not a swimming venue for the community of Ft. Thomas. The waiting list has been this long for over 30 years or more. It is not a community venue for the city to enjoy if the wait is this long. Many Ft. Thomas citizens cannot use it. We were fortunate to have the YMCA enter our community. Don't forget Sunlite Pool at Coney Island too. Both are great family friendly venues for Ft. Thomas families who enjoy pool time. It sounds like the only thing keeping the Swim Club viable and open is the outrageous membership dues. The small crowd represents the small mindedness of our city.

  5. Simple solution, raise annual dues. Dues could easily be twice the current level and would still be a bargain.

  6. I know many families that absolutely love the Swim Club but my husband and I have decided to not even put our family on the waiting list. We belong to the Y and are happy with the pool there. Sure I worry (a little) about my kids in their middle school/high school years not having access to a summer hangout their friends may or may not be at. But the waiting list and cost (and I understand, it's expensive to run such an establishment) just make it feel so exclusionary. And while some people may like the Swim Club because of that, to us it's a turnoff. Personally I like the idea of supporting an organization like the Y that offers discounted memberships to families based on income, etc.

  7. After waiting 9 years to get "in", I finally got the call this year. And I said "no." Now before you think I'm crazy, consider this: after weighing the initial start up costs of being a member (1300+) and after realizing what the cost would be for our family to be able to swim for a summer (approximately 90 days), I decided being a member of the swim club wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Since we know so many who are members, I am my kids can pretty go to the swim club any time we want. Even paying the "guest" rate we still wouldn't spend what it would cost for the annual summer fee as members. I decided I would rather take my start up costs and take a nice vacation. Besides, I have never been there and scene a huge crowd. Ever. I always wondered why it wasn't opened up to more people. I know plenty who belong to the country club AND the swim club but only use one. You can guess where they swim... There are also many who continue to hold onto memberships long after moving away. This only drags the wait out for those with young, growing families that would benefit from a local swimming hole vs. the elderly couple who has had a membership for years but hasn't visited in as much. We've done just fine, thank you, by not being members. After 9 years, I was over it. Too long of a wait for something no so worth it anymore.

  8. Just moving to the area it seems we may never enjoy your swim club. My son will be close to adulthood in 8 to 10 years. Where we moved from we had a community pool that you could buy a season pass or pay a fee per visit. Non residents had to pay a higher price. It worked out very nicely and everyone was happy.

  9. It's a private club. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but if you don't belong, you don't get a say in the matter.

    Over the last 10 years, membership has been increased by 100 families. Be glad that a lot of families make limited use of their membership, or that would have never happened. Also, memberships can not be "passed down". Once family members become adults, they have to get on the list and wait like everyone else. We had to wait 6 years. We made good use of the YMCA pool, until then.

    Also, rates have changed... A family membership was $325 for the current year. If someone waits to get in the club, then pays their dues, who is anyone else to tell them how often they should visit.

  10. I grew up in Ft Thomas, and our family of 5 kids, could not afford the Swim Club although I was a guest a few times with some of my friends. Then my parents bought a pool for our backyard and that solved the swimming. Had lots of fun in it.
    When I had my own family, I couldn't afford swim club again, so joined the Y which was just up the street. My kids learned how to swim and we all had a great time.
    I think the swim club is just a 'prestige' club. It should be enjoyed by members that use it, not just keep membership "because!". Audit the list yearly, and allow new members to come on. Politics is not to be used for the availability to SWIM.

  11. How about changing the by-laws and allow members from the list to purchase bonds from individuals at whatever price the market will bear.

    I am one of the members who has not been to the pool for several years, however, paying the yearly rate isn't a problem and the ROI from the bond of $750 isn't enough for me to relinquish my membership.

    However, if I could get more money from the bond, I would consider turning in my bond.

  12. While the board of directors decided to change the fee structure to be more like all of the other swim clubs in the area, they failed to mention that these same clubs have bonds that belong to the members who have the ability to sell for an amount they deem appropriate, unlike the FTSC who has to return the bond to the club for a piddly price of $750.00.

  13. As a current member, I would like to see the guest rules changed back to what they were and strictly enforced.

    It used to be that a guest could only come to the club three times per month, regardless of which member they were guests of.

    As one poster mentioned,they can come to the club as guests so they don't need to be on the list.

    You can't have your cake and eat it too!

  14. North end crap. Join the Y, at least the membership includes a lot more winter type activities too.

  15. why don't they have "social memberships"? the few times i've been a guest at the club i've seen many older folks who are clearly there to hang out (a perfectly valid use of their membership) and not to swim. if those folks are not taking up space in the pool, more spots could go to families that would swim. the "social membership" people would not be counted against the total number of memberships, so more people could join with no net effect on the crowdedness of the actual pool.

  16. I agree with anonymous 9:18AM. It's a private club, and so it's the existing members who get to decide the rules.

    Don't understand why this is being made into a publicly debated issue.

  17. I don't understand why this many people want to bash a private club. I have been a member since the pool was built and as I had my own family I was on a waiting list just like everyone else. My two daughters were on the list and are now members and my son is still on the list - memberships are NOT just passed down - that does not happen. When the pool was rebuilt the waiting list was wiped out and everyone who wanted to could join. The members own this club and the board and managers do a great job running it. Several years ago a number of new memberships were opened up so many new families got in. Yes I am one of the "older" folk who comes to the pool a lot mostly with grandchildren. I do not intend to give up my membership anytime soon and have a problem with the person who uses the pool for her family as guests. Maybe we should double guest fees? I am proud to be a member of Ft. Thomas Swim Club and wish all you negative people would just stop being so jealous.

  18. Friendly is not a word that comes to mind when describing Fort Thomas, case in point is the peculiar institution known as the Ft. Thomas swim club. The membership restrictions are designed to keep the "riff raff" (read non-cake eaters) out of this beloved swimming hole. The club is exclusionary, elitist and small minded. It's okay, I'd rather swim at a pool where everyone does not look, act, walk and talk the same - it's called 'Diversity' - look it up sometime.

  19. Oh good Lord, then leave the city. Fort Thomas is the best place that I've ever lived, and we moved a lot-- all over the country.

    The people here are nice.

    I would almost bet my life you do not, or have not, ever lived in Fort Thomas. Keep up the good work Ft. Thomas Matters. Great article, Ben.

    And I for one have been on the waiting list for 4 years and can't wait till we get in!

  20. The swim club is hardly elitist.. It is a bargain.. The YMCA (which I also belong to) is $1000/yr for a family membership, so I'm not sure who it is that can't afford the swim club, but can afford the Y. (nothing against the Y, it's a great organization, and I'm not comparing the two... just the finances).

    You want to make it elitist? Then let the members sell their bonds. With current demand, the only people that could afford the bonds would definitely be 1%ers...

    Again, everyone gets in that goes through the waiting list.. no one gets voted out or blackballed. You can't buy your way in... It's as democratic as you can get..

  21. I see nothing wrong with the way they waiting list or the swim club operates; it is typical of a private club. The dues really are not outrageous either. I imagine the insurance costs for the club alone are pretty steep (include a high diving board), let alone paying life guards, concessions staff, etc. My wife any I came across the club when we first moved here. We were just hiking through the woods and discovered it. We took home a form to get on the waiting list and regretfully, never signed on. The next time it occurred to us to sign on, we felt like it would be too late for our kids to enjoy the club. Now, we have our own pool which has been a blast, but adding up the costs of the pool (property insurance being the biggest), I would still prefer the club.....Too late for us.

  22. In 1959 my parents and 200 other families invested some of their hard earned money to purchase land, build a pool and create the Fort Thomas Swim Club. It wasn't an easy task. I've been a member since, except for when I got married to another member and had to get on the waiting list just like anyone else. A little over 10 years ago the existing members of the club were assessed quite a chunk of change to completely rebuild the pool from the ground up. The value of the club belongs to the members of the club, but it is also the members of it. It is a wonderful place, that's exactly why the waiting list is as long as it is. The simple fact of the matter is that it is a private club and the members are the only stakeholders in it.

  23. Well, it is interesting that the comments have ranged from those wanting to patronize the club, but put off by the 10 year wait, to that segment of our neighbors with Roman numerals after their name and 100 year old trust funds, with some of the latter predictably opting to flaunt the technically private nature of te swim club, with private being code for some kind of exclusionary, elitist ego trip for them, if not all members. Credit where credit is due, kudos to those with the good sense and initiative to found the club and / or the good fortune to either be born to a fortune, making money the old fashioned way by inheriting it via father or grandfather's hard work, or simply the metaphorical good fortune to have parents and / or grandparents who had the good sense to pick Fort Thomas decades ago, although its a little off putting to take credit for parents or grandparents like we were there. The bottom line is if you know the rules, from here or not, you can get in the swim club, at least by the time your kids hit high school, making the club at least quasi- democratic. These observations aside, I think what got this conversation going centered around the factual reality that a large number of members fail to actually show up, meaning that there is under-utilized capacity and un-realized revenue, not to mention swimming and social participation that could be comfortably extended to more without diminishing the experience of the current membership if the current administration and membership would be a little less myopic on tradition and a bit more open to the future. My children did without the swim club partially because of the wait and partially because I was put off by the wait, but its not like some tragedy occurred. To each his own. Perhaps supply and demand would suggest that another group should muster the initiative to found a new club. Boy wouldn't a new, Mount Pleasant Swim Club in true North Fort Thomas set traditionalists on their ear?

  24. That series of comments is so insulting that I'll refrain from naming the original Board of
    Directors of the Swim Club and explaining that no, they weren't elite snobs, just a group of middle class men and women (yep, women) from the different talent classes needed to pull together an undertaking such as it laws, engineering, selling the get the picture. My guess is you wouldn't have been one of them.

  25. Credit where credit is due, as noted above, to those parents and grandparents with the good sense and initiative to found the club and / or make FT their home. The Club is democratic, although the waiting list has rightfully posed the rhetorical question of if there might be un-used capacity given spotty attendance by some members. One of the big pay-offs for being civic minded is being able to reach out to as much of the community as possible. A waiting list obviously limits that. If one has been blessed by earning or inheriting substantial means, it's called philanthropy. If one is of more average means, we do what we can in the way of time and talent, if not treasure, to still make things happen. Again, kudos to the founders and their families. You have every right to be proud. Shame on those, however, who might hijack this democratic club by claiming exclusionary rights. Yes, you are a member, but no reason to be put off by those who would join you. With no disrespect, perhaps supply and demand would support a new club at, say, Rossford. For me, the swim club ship has sailed, but I remain engaged in doing my part to keep this community contemporary and relevant by working toward the adequate and equitable funding of our schools. So, no, I would not have been there, as I would have been otherwise occupied with my civic-minded pursuits. Whatever my editorial comments, best of luck to those who serve our community via support of the swim club. THAT is what I meant, editorial comments and interpretation aside.

  26. As a past president of the swim club I can guarantee you it is an on-going topic of discussion among the board members and discussed almost yearly at the annual membership meeting. And that is where this discussion should stay. The only way to change the number of memberships is to amend the by-laws. The number of memberships has more than doubled since opening and there are many dynamics involved as to why. A lot has changed since 1959. Believe me, we are well aware of that list since my guess is that everyone on it would call at least one member "friend" and the same would be true in reverse.

  27. Has it ever been discussed to build another pool?